How many of your teachers would you have trusted with a gun? When Donald Trump floated his exciting policy proposal to minimise school shootings, I scanned my memory in search of teachers I would be reassured to see packing a piece. Perhaps this is one of those transatlantic-divide issues but, I have to say, the image of my form master with a Heckler & Koch was not entirely comforting. There were, after all, times when I tried his patience. I was a disruptive child and my mastery of gerunds was not all it could have been.
In general, I hold with that European commie pinko view that the prospect of gun deaths in your immediate locale declines meaningfully if no one around actually has a gun. So I viewed the president’s idea with — what’s the correct term here? — incredulity. But then again, we are always being assailed by inspirational stories about teachers. Perhaps most people had school days punctuated with life-affirming lessons from the likes of Sidney Poitier, Robin Williams and Maggie Smith. I mean who would not trust Maggie with a Smith & Wesson?
In advocating the idea, Trump talked about teachers who were “talented with weapons”. Now, call me old-fashioned but “talented with weapons” is not one of the key skills I look for in an English teacher. Imagine the interview process: “He was a bit wobbly on Shakespeare but he aced the free-fire zone.”
But perhaps I am an outlier in not having been taught by anyone I would want to see armed. The president particularly specified coaches and sports teachers as among those who might be. Thinking of my own gym teachers, all I can say is “yikes”. I am sure they would have been the first to volunteer for special training.
And there would have been none of this keeping the pistol in a locked box. They would have strutted around the school with their holsters showing and a “make my day” glint in their eyes. As one of those physical-education wasters who never entirely got the point of neck springs, I would worry about the consequences of continued failure on the pommel horse. We were, after all, a results-driven establishment.
As for the caustic Welshman who taught me politics and history: I don’t think he would actually go so far as to shoot a pupil, but he would definitely have enjoyed making them dance.
Let’s not forget that the perpetrators of these massacres tend to be armed with semi-automatic or automatic weapons. So are we sure a mere handgun will be enough for the head of history? If you go down the Trump route, you need a bit more firepower. Would a teacher feel truly safe with anything less than a Kalashnikov? In fact, why stop at the teachers? Are children to be denied their second amendment right to defend themselves? Surely a gun-toting teenager is the best defence against another gun-toting teenager.
If all this sounds a bit glib, a little too close to the Florida tragedy, I would make the following points. First, it is always too close to a tragedy in the US. Second, it is often quiet, respectable people who have never previously aroused concern who carry out these atrocities. Maybe my school was unusual but I do not find it hard to imagine one of my teachers “cracking”. In fact, I do not need to imagine it and I can think of at least one who I am very glad had no access to lethal weaponry on the day he was forced to quit.
And lest it seem I am taking a pop at teachers, I would add that there are not many people at work or home that I’d be pleased to see armed either. Guns have their moment and their uses, but it’s a lot harder to get shot if there are none around.
Finally, the notion that arming teachers is a solution is so spectacularly risible, such an outrageous piece of political posturing and calculated indifference that mockery is almost the only recourse. You want an example of glibness? How about a head of state who holds that there is no problem that can’t be solved by a geography teacher with a Glock 17?
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